×

Why the Diversity in Hollywood Conversation Also Needs to Include Age

The phrase “You’re not getting older, you’re getting better” is often said with smiling insincerity, a way of cheering up someone who’s blue. However, sometimes the phrase is absolutely correct and the films of 2016 offer plenty of great work from people over 50, and some of whom are considerably older than that. And they’re getting better.

Isabelle Huppert, Viggo Mortensen, and Hugh Grant, for example, have been expert actors for decades, but managed this year to top themselves (in “Elle,” “Captain Fantastic” and “Florence Foster Jenkins,” respectively). Of course the right script, director, and film team are an important part of any performance, but the three actors manage to create characters who are totally original and unlike anything they’ve done before.

In an ageist society — and an industry that puts a premium on anyone who’s shiny and new — it’s hard for actors to sustain a career, much less expand on one. When many stars find success, they hold onto characters and mannerisms that have been crowd-pleasers and, as a result, they become stale or self-parodies.

So it’s especially impressive when an actor grows. Huppert, Mortensen, and Grant may be the best examples of actors who went out on a limb, with impressive results. But the films of 2016 offer many more veterans doing terrific work, including Ralph Fiennes (“Hail, Caesar” and “A Bigger Splash”), Tom Hanks (“Sully”), Meryl Streep (“Florence Foster Jenkins”), Stephen Lang (“Don’t Breathe”), Hugo Weaving (“Hacksaw Ridge”), Sally Field (“Hello, My Name Is Doris”), Jeff Bridges (“Hell or High Water”), Helen Mirren and Alan Rickman (“Eye in the Sky”), Tracy Letts (“Indignation”), and Margo Martindale (“The Hollars”). Upcoming are “Fences” with Denzel Washington and Viola Davis, and “Silence,” with Liam Neeson.

All of them are over 50, but, out of respect for SAG’s efforts to minimize age discrimination (including the so-called “IMDb law”), we’re not getting into specifics.

And the “older-getting-better” rule applies behind the camera as well. Directors Mel Gibson (“Hacksaw Ridge”), Clint Eastwood (“Sully”), Stephen Frears (“Florence Foster Jenkins”) and Paul Verhoeven (“Elle”) have accumulated lots of awards over the years, but their 2016 films are as good as anything they’ve done.

Behind the cameras, film execs can also be discriminatory about age. But smart execs rely on many go-to pros, including cinematographer Roger Deakins (“Hail, Caesar”), sound maven Andy Nelson (“La La Land”), costume designer Colleen Atwood (four films this year, including “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”) to name a few.

Of course it’s great to see new talent in the spotlight during awards season, including first-time writers, directors, and artisans, as well as some amazing actors who are under 20.

It’s not a matter of age, but talent, and talent comes in many demographics. The cries for more film diversity has been building for a long time. It’s a matter of race, gender — and age. Talk to any actress over 50, and she will confirm that it’s an issue. But along with the cries for diversity are the reminders that it’s good for business: The more voices you hear, the more interesting it is.

More Film

  • Ford v Ferrari

    Oscars: 31 Upcoming Films That Could Enter the Awards Race

    The year reaches the halfway mark on June 30, and traditionally films from the first six months have an uphill battle in the Oscar race. However, this year’s January-June crop might get a boost from the accelerated schedule: Nominations voting is a tight Jan. 2-Jan. 7, 2020. So if voters start their homework now, early [...]

  • Yesterday Movie Danny Boyle

    Danny Boyle on 'Yesterday,' Leaving 'Bond 25' and Why the Beatles Still Rock

    Danny Boyle would like to reintroduce you to the Beatles. The iconic foursome certainly needs no introduction, but in his movie “Yesterday,” which debuts June 28, the director envisions a word where nobody has heard of John, Paul, George and Ringo. That is, nobody besides Jack Malik. When the struggling songwriter, portrayed by newcomer Himesh [...]

  • Svensk Filmindustri SF Studios logo

    Warner Bros, SF Studios Expand Distribution Deal Across Scandinavia

    Warner Bros. Pictures has expanded its distribution deal with SF Studios to include Sweden and have their movies released by the Nordic major through all of Scandinavia. Warner Bros. Pictures already has a distribution pact with SF Studios in Denmark, Norway and Finland. Under the partnership, SF Studios has been handling the sales, marketing and [...]

  • Nicole Kidman Meryl Streep

    Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman to Star in Ryan Murphy's 'The Prom' at Netflix

    Ryan Murphy enlisted a star-studded cast for his upcoming Netflix movie “The Prom,” an adaptation of the Tony-nominated Broadway musical. Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, Awkwafina, James Corden, Ariana Grande, Keegan-Michael Key and Andrew Rannells are among the A-listers bringing “The Prom” to screens. “The Prom” follows a lesbian student in the fictional conservative town of [...]

  • Viktor Dvorak, Anna Geislerova Join Vaclav

    Viktor Dvorak, Anna Geislerova Join Václav Havel Biopic

    Viktor Dvorak has been cast in “Havel,” a biopic of Václav Havel, as the Czech playwright, dissident and national leader. Anna Geislerova, who starred in Oscar nominated “Zelary,” plays his wife, Olga Havlova. Jiri Bartoska, the president of Karlovy Vary Film Festival, will appear in the film as “Professor,” inspired by Czech philosopher Jan Patocka. [...]

  • Daniel Craig

    'Bond 25' First Footage Sees Daniel Craig Back as 007

    After suffering a series of setbacks, including finding a new director and Daniel Craig’s on-set injury, “Bond 25” production is officially underway. A new behind-the-scenes clip of the upcoming James Bond film features Craig and helmer Cary Joji Fukunaga at work in the Caribbean. The minute-long footage didn’t reveal much about the still-untitled movie, though [...]

  • (L to R) Marco Graf as

    ‘Roma,’ ‘The Good Girls’ Top Mexico’s Ariel Academy Awards

    The Mexican Academy of Arts and Cinematographic Sciences hosted the 61st edition of their Ariel Awards on Monday evening, where Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma” and Alejandra Márquez Abella’s “The Good Girls” stood out among the winners. Perhaps the most surprising thing about Cuarón’s “Roma” scooping best picture is that it’s only the second of his films to [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content